North Korea News: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently had surgery, could be incapacitated, US officials say
Yelena Dzhanova, Amanda Macias, Mike Calia
KCNA | Reuters
Some intelligence officials said the intelligence suggests that Kim could be incapacitated, NBC added.
The development came on the heels of the South Korean currency, the won, taking a hit following an unconfirmed report that Kim was seriously ill. Kim has been out of public view for several days, according to officials cited by NBC.
The news also seemed to contradict what South Korea’s presidential office had told NBC News.
“We confirm that Chairman Kim Jong Un is currently touring provincial areas with his close aides and we do not detect evidences to support speculation about his ill health,” South Korea’s presidential office told NBC News in a statement.
“Even North Korea’s Worker’s Party, military or cabinet aren’t showing any special movements such as emergency decree. We believe that Chairman Kim is active as normal as he has been,” the office said.
Robert O’Brien, President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, said in a Fox News interview on Tuesday that the United States is monitoring Kim’s status.
“We’re monitoring these reports very closely,” he said. “As you know, North Korea is a very closed society.”
The White House and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Daily NK, a South Korean newspaper that focuses its coverage on North Korea, said late Monday that Kim on April 12 received a cardiovascular procedure at Hyangsan Hospital. The outlet also reported that Kim was recovering in a villa near the hospital.
The latest revelation comes on the heels of the Trump administrations renewed burden-sharing costs of U.S. allies in the region. President Donald Trump said Monday that he wants South Korea to pay more for the U.S. military presence there.
Seoul and Washington are currently negotiating a new agreement specifying how both countries share the costs of the 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea.
“South Korea is a very wealthy nation. They make our television sets, they make ships, they make everything. And, I give them great credit. We’ve been defending them for many, many decades,” Trump said Monday. “I’ve gone to them in the past. Last year I went to them, now they’re paying a billion dollars a year, and I went to them again and I said, ‘Look I’ll be back because that’s just a fraction,’” he added. “Again, the relationship is great, but it’s just not a fair relationship.”
North Korea under third-generation Kim
KCNA | Reuters
Under Kim, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near Guam.
North Korea, the only nation to have tested nuclear weapons this century, spent most of President Donald Trump’s first year in office perfecting its nuclear arsenal. The newest member of the world’s exclusive nuclear weapons club has stopped testing of its nukes for now as the U.S. and international community offer the possibility of relief from crippling economic sanctions.
In 2018, Trump met Kim Jong Un for the first time in Singapore to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The two leaders held a second round of talks in Vietnam in February 2019, but negotiations collapsed after Trump reportedly handed Kim a note demanding he turn over the North’s nuclear weapons and bomb fuel.
Susan Walsh | Reuters
While North Korea has paused nuclear tests that prompted Trump’s threat to bring “fire and fury” upon that country, it had already made significant progress before the historic dialogue with the U.S. started.
In 2018, he became the first North Korean leader to cross the 38th parallel to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-In. Both Koreas are technically still at war, as the Korean War of 1950-1953 ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
The two leaders first met last year in a historic summit in Singapore. That was followed by a second round of talks in Vietnam in February, but that summit was abruptly ended after Trump reportedly handed Kim a note demanding he turn over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and bomb fuel.
In December, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Wednesday he will continue developing his country’s nuclear deterrent and introduce a new strategic weapon in the near future, according to the North’s state-run media KCNA.
Kim’s remarks came after the United States missed a year-end deadline for a restart of denuclearization talks.